In honor of the annual Coachella season’s commencement this past week, I’d like to once again highlight the discussion surrounding cultural appropriation. From bindis, through feathered head ornaments and dashikis, all the way to war paint, the festival’s fashion scene has it all. The issue here is not people being keen on sporting items of clothing or accessories that have symbolic connotations in certain cultures, but rather they, as members of a dominant group, often tending to exploit the heritage of marginalized ones without previous consideration.
One definition, as given by Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, is, ‘’taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.’’
More often than not, these appropriations come in the form of a passing fad, be it twerking when it was ‘in’ not as a result of a newly found appreciation and understanding of African-American culture, but due to a music video featuring Miley Cyrus adopting it as yet another sign of her path to self-discovery. Or when cornrows and dreadlocks are admired and requested simply because individuals with large public followings like the Kardashians or Katy Perry were seen wearing them, and not as, for example, a protest against the stigma which exists of these hairstyles being ‘unsanitary’ and ‘unprofessional’. For black people especially, cornrows and dreadlocks can act as an immediate rejection when applying for a job, whereas for white people they are seen as ‘edgy’ or ‘unique’.